Seafood was everywhere- overfilled buckets and congested fish tanks were stacked one on top of another. In between the precarious arrangements merchants bustled around clad in parkas and rubber aprons. It was a bitterly cold winter afternoon and a steady flow of water was underfoot. As my friends and I wandered down the rows, people called out to us and poked their snapping ‘low-priced’ crabs with cleavers.
The variety was just as impressive as the quantity. There were entire sharks, shrimp, stingrays, shellfish, octopus that could fit on your palm and some longer than your arm. We had the choice to either eat sashimi cuts prepared on the spot or take our seafood purchase to the second level where a restaurant could prepare it for us.
Not confident about our ability to select fish, we decided to try sannokji instead. It is a small octopus that is chopped apart and delivered to the table still wriggling across the plate (thus the English name “live octopus”). From a small plastic bucket on the floor we picked the four liveliest critters and hoped we wouldn’t choke on their suction cups.
Upstairs the restaurant was filled with customers eating their freshly killed food. After a few minutes our octopus was delivered to our private room looking pretty sinister. The legs were flaying about and highly responsive to the touch of a chopstick. It was very difficult to pry their suction cups off the smooth plate, like pulling a bath mat off the shower floor. Even when they were dipped in sesame oil they still adhered to my cheek and took a long time to chew because they were so rubbery. My coworker had been unlucky enough to start his experience with the octopus head. After swallowing the chunk five minutes later, he had a disgusted look on his face.
“I really thought I was going to like this. Let’s go get some real food.”
How to get to the Fish Market: Noryangjin Station, Line 1 Exit #1. Follow signs and cross over the bridge.